Wincing when you’re handed the bill at the grocery checkout is becoming a Canadian experience.
Food prices have marched higher throughout the pandemic, and even though the economy is slowly reopening there appears to be no relief in sight.
If anything it’s getting worse.
The Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University estimates that food inflation in Canada is close to 5%. And in recent months that has run even hotter on many grocery items because of bad growing weather and logistical problems brought on the pandemic.
Canadians are feeling the pain. In a recent survey of 10,000 Canadians done by Agri-Food in partnership with Caddle, 86% of participants said they have noticed higher food prices.
Especially for meat. More than half of Canadians said they had noticed the biggest price increases at the meat counter, which according to Statistics Canada have increased about 10% in the past six months.
Accordingly, we are buying less of it. Almost half of those surveyed (49%) say they have cut their meat purchases over the past six months because of high prices. That was highest in Alberta, where 57% said they were cutting down on meat. Quebec and Ontario had the lowest rate at 46%.
Something else Canadians are noticing in their grocery stores is “shrinkflation” where less quantity of a product is sold for the same price. Almost three out of four Canadians (73.5%) say they have noticed that some food products are smaller, but prices stay the same or sometimes go up.
Canadians have found other ways to cope beyond abstinence. Discounted products — the ones where the best before date is about to expire — have also become more popular. The survey found 39.6% of Canadians are buying more discounted products than last year, and 26.9% say they are buying products with the “Enjoy tonight” label more often.
Consumers are also buying more house brands, which tend to be cheaper and flyers and coupons are being put to more use: 37.5% of those surveyed said they were buying more house brands and 41.6% said they were reading flyers more often than last year. Almost 40% of Canadians said they used more coupons than in 2020.
Canadians are expected to pay almost $700 more for food this year than in 2020, according to the Agri-Food Analytics Lab’s 2021 food report.
“Families with less means will be significantly challenged in 2021, and many will be left behind,” said Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, Agri-Food’s director when the report was released. “Immunity to higher food prices requires more cooking, more discipline and more research. It’s as simple as that.”
Curious how much more we are paying?
Here’s a sampling of some of the increases since January, provided by BetterCart, which monitors food prices in Canada.
- Butter, up 35.5%
- Ketchup, up 7.3%
- Potatoes, up 11.5%
- Frozen french fries, up 26.2%
- Bananas, up 4.9%
- Macaroni, up 12.7%